Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Late July is a favorite time. I can back it up a bit and say all of spring and summertime fit this category. Late July, however, has an unrushed quality that is especially alluring. It's simply a beautiful time of steadiness and fullness in nature. I like that.

Al and I have been out enjoying the fine warm days and things to do. The other day we were at a coffee shop near one of the city lakes. Within sight of us, across the park boulevard, was a ball field, backstop and bench.

"That's a great summer scene," I commented, pointing particularly to the bench. I'm always on the lookout for benches.

The plentiful placement of benches in any given location practically guarantees a welcoming spot. Benches invite. They graciously permit you to sit and rest and enjoy - and please take all the time you want, they seem to urge. My approval for any park goes up whenever a generous sprinkling of benches is part of its plan.

My husband surveyed the ball field. He had a doubtful expression. He was trying to ascertain what I was talking about. He's learned my idea of things can differ from his.

"It would be a summer scene if someone was playing baseball. It's empty" - added as if he thought I might have missed that key element. "If someone was actually playing ball, then you'd have a summer scene. The ball players are missing."

His lack of agreement was no surprise. He and I can sum up, in dissimilar terms, the reality we see.

"It's empty but it's still a summer scene." I held to my position. "The bench is just waiting for someone to come along and use it. The place being empty doesn't make it any less a summer scene."

We lingered long enough that we were able to watch a young man in long-sleeve dress shirt (from some nearby office no doubt) go into the coffee shop and come out again. He carried his purchase, a prepared sandwich, which obviously was his choice for lunch.

He crossed the road to the shady green space bordering the lake.
"He's going to the bench to eat it," I guessed.

Al had an alternate destination for the young man. "He's going to eat the sandwich by the lake," he said.

The fellow did seem to have the lake in mind. He wasn't angling close enough to be making towards the bench. It was disappointing when I felt so certain the bench is where he would go. I gave Al his due - he appeared to have plotted the course correctly.

Perhaps the hungry office worker had a change of mind. All of a sudden he
slowed, did a kind of half-turn and proceeded to the bench, seating himself squarely upon it in the midday sun.

The bench received the occupant as if patiently expecting him. The summer scene, in all details, made a pleasing impression as we got up to leave.

Ro Giencke - July 26, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No-Bake Brownies: Summer Remedy

I looked up the meaning of antidote as a first step. Antidote is a word that's been going through my head lately.

Remedy is a word listed when I checked out antidote. It's not the first explanation but it's the one that suits my meaning best.

Remedy is a good word. When we're in a really tough place a remedy bails us out. A remedy can put us on the right track. It can get us well. It can resolve conflicts and problems. There's tremendous power in the simplicity of the word. It gives promise to any situation.

This striving, contentious world is in sore need of an antidote to its troubles. That's why the word has been hanging out with me. There has to be a remedy for what ails so many areas of our living. Something is needed to counterbalance the confusion of strange situations everywhere.

It's wishful thinking to imagine remedies are as easy to come upon as dandelions in the yard in the spring. In truth it's you and me who are the remedies.

It's our brains, our good will and our determination which we combine to address the different needs. Mutual effort and willingness to work together are essential to solve the messes, heal the hurting and make everything okay.

Remedies are so often tied with our opinions. They're part and parcel of the politics we embrace. How we see things is how we're apt to pitch our remedy upon the world. We regard our remedy as merchandisers do who sell women's pantyhose. One size fits all we can mistakenly believe. It's never that easy and not with pantyhose either.

To be remedy people we have to look around. We do what we can. We start with concern for children or housing or parks. Our accomplishments can seem so paltry stacked against all that requires to be done.

Maybe that's why those of us who still read newspapers find respite in the sports pages. The sports section is escape and reprieve and also inspiration and hope. The pressing issues are on the other side of the paper for the brief time we consume the sports news.

Hobbies, certain activities, friendships and travel are other means of putting distance from the daily grind or the harder things that weigh us down. They act as an antidote to all we take in. They counterbalance the prosaic or sterner edges of life. They soften or realign the reality that each of us deals with.

When a national budget compromise seems an impossibility, when heat index talk wilts you further, when your work project is red-flagged for lack of funding, or anything else that challenges your equanimity, if only in a slight degree, an antidote can be extremely helpful.

The remedy is whatever you make it be. You get to create your own satisfactory balance. You are free to smooth out and create anything away from the circumstances over which you have no control.

Making something in the kitchen is a no-fail remedy for me. Even if the recipe itself fails from time to time there's pleasure in the food preparation process. You make some order out of the ingredients you choose.You do something and present a result.

For me it's never anything fancy. That's why it probably works so well. The only stipulation is that it's relaxing and real. The easy recipe below fits the bill. It takes mere minutes and there's little clean-up. It's a great antidote to the present widespread summer heat.

No-Bake Brownies

In saucepan cook over low heat till mixture is smooth 2/3 cup evaporated milk and 1 -12 oz. package chocolate chips. Remove from heat and add 3 c. graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Spread in greased 8 x 8" square pan. Refrigerate till firm. Cut into squares.

Ro Giencke - July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heat in the Bushes

Sunday was blistering hot. Blistering as in what happens to the skin where the sunscreen doesn't reach. It was well into the 90s. We're starting to expect it of this summer once it has established its position as a latecomer.

That evening I happened to look out the window. A rabbit lay for all the world dead on the ground some distance from the house.

It was stretched out looking horribly lifeless. Its long skinny legs were stiffly pointed this way. It was facing the bushes as if hightailing it to shelter before it went down. "Heat," I fumed. "I bet the temperatures did it in. Poor thing."

"Or wait! Another idea occurred. "Could some neighborhood dog have chased it and wounded it and the bunny ran with its fatal injury to this very spot to expire? How very sad."

The furry body would have to be disposed of. It was too uncomfortably warm to think about doing the responsible thing immediately. The bunny had possibly been there awhile. It wasn't going to be going anywhere. In the cool of dusk, that barely imperceptible lightening of the heavy air by a degree or two, then possibly I was up to taking action. Not now.

I went on to other things but shortly chanced to revisit, with my eyes, the same spot. And then, oh my goodness.

The rabbit was all turned around. The head, unseen before, was switched to my side. This was clearly one breathing bunny I was seeing. You could practically see the nose twitch.

The bunny must have been been lying down as if in a deep rest or swoon. When it got up and moved I was able to take note of something not detected before. The spot it occupied was a bare patch (in our not quite perfect lawn). The warm soil, by now in shade, must have felt good to the bunny. It picked that spot because it was a soothing place to be.

Thinking it might be thirsty I brought out a bowl of water. The bunny bounded away at my approach. Later it returned to the shaded area. It nibbled at grass blades. It didn't seem to be aware of the nearby bowl or interested in the water it held.

Rabbits probably don't have the same water intake requirements as humans. On a scorcher of a day as this was, and out in the elements, I'd be plenty thankful for a free bowl of water. I could only offer what would have been appreciated for myself. That the bunny didn't need the water was a bonus. It was doing fine on its own.

I'm very happy the rabbit proved to be exceedingly alive. Pretty clearly it was creating its version of a siesta as it lay long and flat on the ground. I like to think it favors the bald spot in our lawn. It's a good place for the bunny to hang out. Quietly it communes with nature, of which it is a part.

Ro Giencke - July 13, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011


It's July and this is my happy time. Warm weather is very agreeable to me. Everything is so open and free at this time of year (except our State of Minnesota, shut down for the ninth consecutive day amid a quagmire of politics and pettiness. But that's another story and not a tale to be told for this entry.)

It was a wonderful 4th of July. We were up north with family. Horseshoes, bocce and cribbage were played. The different arenas of action used fluid rules. Sufficient players were found by rounding up anyone willing at the moment to pitch a shoe or aim a ball.

There was time at the river for floating and swimming. We whiled away lazy afternoons in the yard. Among other things we watched was the seemingly last nesting turtle of the season. She lay her eggs surprisingly close to the house.

The July 4th noon spread was delicious. There's always something for everyone. As with every year there's some new dish or salad to comment on and inquire how it's made.

Desserts were a smaller category than previously. This was compensated for by fruits and fresh-picked berries. My sister-in-law's popular banana cake (the secret is banana in the frosting) became the birthday cake as we sang the birthday song to my niece. I hope her ears have repaired themselves following our valiant attempt at choral presentation.

The two black Labs - one old with its only ambition to snooze in the shade, the other young and alert with energy - were the faithful canines rounding out our numbers. At one point both dogs were at rest on either side of the porch steps. The scene said something about our time together. All found comfortable spots near one another to reside and relax.

A cow went over the dam and the recovery efforts brought out various official local units. A strategy was reviewed for removing the dead cow from the river. We didn't stay to watch the full recovery operation but did take in the scene of red fire truck and other equipped vehicles.

It looked like either the start or finish of a parade or emergency backup for a very scary accident before being given an explanation of what what was going on. A suiting-up scuba diver, part of the recovery squad, assessed the situation from the perspective of the job he was called to do. It might be just another day's work for him. Nevertheless, a cow in the river must be a somewhat unusual situation.

Thankfully (if not for the cow) it all turned out to be just another page in the story of the country summer.

Talking with a neighbor the next day she wryly referred to it as "hoopla at the dam." In reality there wasn't much hoopla to it. It was at best subdued drama. The early forenoon hour had few onlookers about. But the stench of the cow as it was grappled to the surface was forceful reminder of the potential treachery of water.

The neighbor, a year-round resident, was unaware of any farm immediately upstream reporting a cow missing. The hapless creature was likely in the water for some time. Perhaps it took a misstep in pastureland near the river, lost its footing and fell in. Almost by any theory it was a victim of heavy seasonal rains and rapid river currents.

Church on the July 4th weekend was full. The pastor talked about vacationers taking time to attend services when vacationing away from all the other set things in our lives. He talked of the need for Sunday rest - ditto the need for holiday rest.

We concluded with America the Beautiful. My gaze moved to outside views of pines and farmland as voices raised in song. The stirring stanzas fluttered our hearts as surely as the flag causes us to stand and salute it with pride. The song's "spacious skies" and "amber waves of grain," powerful words of natural grandeur, create as real a picture of America as anything.

My brother and I commented that the basswood must be a little late this year. The blossoming we come to expect at the start of July hadn't yet happened. Back home here the basswood trees are in bloom. The heady aroma comes in the opened windows. It's the smell of summer to me.

Ro Giencke - July 9, 2011